Bukidnon civil society sector welcomes bottom-up budgeting, but …

VALENCIA CITY (Bukidnon News/11 August) Officials of civil society organizations attending a four-day capability training last week organized by the National Anti-Poverty Commission on the bottom-up budgeting (BUB) welcomed the BUB as a realization of anti poverty programs, but lamented that local governments still have to tap the full potential of CSOs and non-government organizations as partners.

Hermogenes Alovera of the Valencia City cooperative sector told MindaNews the BUB scheme will help realize long-awaited projects from the grassroots level but said it did not go smoothly from the start.

CSOs, he said, play a critical role in governance but for the 2013 BUB planning only a few believed the project will push through.

“We were not sure if it’s true. It was too good to be true,” he told reporters in an earlier press conference.

Bukidnon’s two cities and 17 of its 20 towns will get a total of P317.5 million from national government agencies for anti-poverty programs in 2013, the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) said last week.

The 19 local government units (LGUs) are among the 609 priority recipients all over the country, NAPC Undersecretary Marie Labajo told MindaNews earlier.

Libona, Sumilao and Dangcagan towns were not included in the 2013 allocation, but Labajo said they will possibly be included in the 2014 budget.

Of Bukidnon’s LGUs, Valencia City will get the highest budget, P37.8 million, followed by Quezon town and Malaybalay City with P26.9 million each.

Most of the proposed projects are farm-to-market roads and support services for agrarian reform communities, she said.

The NAPC’s new budgeting process leaves the LGUs with no choice but to partner with CSOs if they wish to avail of additional funds, Labajo said.

Ruben Lucernas, of the Agri-Aqua Development Coalition – Local Coalition cited a few projects bankrolled through the scheme in their town in Kalilangan.

“At least the projects could be started even if it still cannot be complete,” he added, in the vernacular.

Emma Asok of the People Power Volunteers for Reform (PPVR) said they are open to work with government through “constructive engagement between the LGUs and the CSOs.”

But Ester Villarin of the Alliance of Urban and Rural Women in Bukidnon said local CSOs are left not fully tapped.

She said the bottom-up budgeting is a realization of decades of struggle for the basic sectors like the women to be included in governance.

“But we had our own share of difficulties (penetrating) the LGUs. It is hard to change their lingering concept of us people in the CSOs,” she added.

She said hopefully in the continuation of the project, the wide participation of the marginalized sectors is ensured.

Villarin cited the abrupt introduction of the project that’s why some were not included.

She said they like the project because they participate in the budget process without them getting inside the structure of LGUs.

She said most LGUs, even with their participation in the local development councils, become the “silent committee” in facing a plan already made by government planners.

“We could no longer react in that system,” she added.

Villarin said they see the BUB as their entry point.

Sator Oro of the Damulog-based Bukidnon Integrated Services Assistance Program Inc. that BUB scheme is a victory, a chance given to the poor against poverty.

USEC Labajo agreed and assured the CSOs that the concept of poverty reduction programs that stayed in the mind of planners in Manila is already a thing in the past.

“Planning anti-poverty programs should be decentralized. It’s the poor, not politicians, who knows best,” she added.

Labajo noted that the challenge for LGUs and CSOs is to reach the poorest of the poor or the most vulnerable of people in their localities.

She cited that the Local Poverty Reduction and Management Plan should be prepared by a LPRM team that is composed of 50 percent representatives from LGUs and 50 percent from CSOs. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)